20 JANUARY, 2018, Saturday, 2nd Week, Ordinary Time


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 SM 1:1-4, 11-12, 17, 19, 23-27; PS 80:2-3, 5-7; MK 3:20-21 ]

The two-liner gospel text is one of the shortest readings for mass.  Yet, this terse mention of Jesus having no time to take a meal because of the crowd and that the relatives were “convinced he was out of his mind”, shows the passion Jesus had for His ministry. Indeed, if many of us live mediocre and boring lives, it is because we lack passion in life and for life.  Nothing seems to excite us.  What are we living for?  What drives us to do what we do?  In most instances, we are driven by fear, obligation and peer pressure.  We are not driven by passion.

When we are passionate about something, we can give our whole mind and soul into it.  If a student is interested in a subject, there is no need to pressurize him to study.  Quite often, if a student is not studying, it is not because he or she is lazy. Rather it is because he or she finds the subject and the lessons boring and irrelevant in his or her life.  For this reason, the task of a teacher is not so much to teach or pass some information to his or her students but to excite the students by giving them a foretaste of the beauty of what is taught so that they would want to learn and discover more for themselves.

This is true in every area of life, whether it is with regard to faith, religion or work.  If many do not have faith in God, it is because they cannot connect with God and the doctrines of the Church.  They cannot see how their faith can add value to their lives.  It is also the same for those who are working.  Those who are simply working for money and promotion will never be able to excel because they are motivated wrongly.   They are motivated insofar as they are paid more or promoted.  However, such motivations cannot satisfy them for long, unless they believe in the vision and the mission of the organization.

If our passion is limited to worldly pursuits, we will never find life truly meaningful and fulfilling.  If our passion is to make money, more wealth, acquire fame and have power, we will end up chasing after the wind.  The moment our stomach is full; we are satiated and tired of rich foods.  The day we have plenty of money, it becomes just numbers in our account because in truth we cannot make use of all the money for ourselves, because our needs are limited.  At any rate, we do not need many things to be happy.  If it is ambition that drives us, when we arrive at it, we will find that we need another goal to keep us going.

So what can drive us to find true meaning and purpose in life?  Jesus was driven not by earthly pleasures, glory or honour.  He was passionate about establishing His Father’s kingdom.  His whole life was about making the love of the Father known.  “I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”  (Jn 17:26)  “They brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.  And the whole city was gathered together about the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons”  (Mk 2:32-34)  And when they wanted Him to stay and build His own kingdom, He said, “’Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.’ And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.”  (Mk 1:38f)

This passion to make the love of His Father known and to establish His reign of love and mercy was also driven by the experience of His Father’s love for Him.  It was His own intimacy with the Father whom He addressed as ‘Abba Father’ that inspired Him to share His experience of the Father’s love with them.  Because of His intimacy with His Father, Jesus shared the love of His Father for humanity, His compassion for them, especially those who suffered from sickness, bondage and oppression.  The works of Jesus, His healing miracles, deliverance and eating and drinking with sinners were meant to demonstrate the power of His Father’s love.

David in the first reading was not motivated by greed or power.  Although he had earlier been anointed to be the next king of Israel, he was not eyeing the office nor was he impatient to be king. (cf 1 Sm 16:1-13)  His only desire was to serve Saul who was the Lord’s Anointed One.  He was motivated to serve God in His servant, Saul.  He was content to be the warrior of Saul, to protect Him and the kingdom.  This was in spite of the fact that Saul tried to kill David many times.  Twice, David could have killed Saul but he refrained from doing so.  The first time, he cut off a piece of Saul’s cloak.  (cf 1 Sm 24) The second time, he took Saul’s spear when he was sleeping.  “The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness; for the Lord gave you into my hand today, and I would not put forth my hand against the Lord’s anointed. Behold, as your life was precious this day in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the Lord, and may he deliver me out of all tribulation.” (1 Sm 26:23f)

Indeed, so passionate was David in serving his master that he was grieved when Saul and Jonathan died in the battle against their enemies.  “David took hold of his garments and tore them, and all the men did the same.  They mourned and wept and fasted until the evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, for the people of the Lord and for the House of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.”  One would have thought that he would rejoice that his assassin had been paid his just deserts.  Instead, David was overcome with grief and sadness.

His love and devotion for Saul is beautifully expressed in the dirge that he wrote for them.  David was a man with a magnanimous heart.  Instead of recounting all the bad things Saul had done to him, pursuing him like a dog, forcing him to hide for years in their enemies’ territories among the Philistines, going hungry and taking refuge in caves, he cried out to Saul, “Why does my lord pursue after his servant? For what have I done? What guilt is on my hands?”  (1 Sm 26:18)  Notwithstanding the injustice that Saul did to him because of his jealousy, David did not choose to highlight the evils that he suffered under Saul.  Instead, he chose to see the goodness that Saul did.  He laid aside his hurts and grievances and focused on the positive aspects of Saul’s kingship.  He said, “Alas, the glory of Israel has been slain on your heights!  Swifter than eagles were they, stronger were they than lions.”  Such were the praises that David sang for his enemy and persecutor.

What gave him that passion to serve King Saul in spite of the latter’s ingratitude?  It was because David feared and trusted in God.  In spite of his sufferings, he believed that God would see him through.  He waited for God’s promise to be fulfilled.  He did not take things into his own hands.  He consistently believed that it was a crime to kill, regardless how evil Saul might have been because he was God’s anointed.  Only God could remove the king.  It was not his job to pronounce judgement on Saul’s sins.  (Lev 19:18)  Because David trusted in God and submitted his life into His hands, he was rewarded for his faith in God.  Rightly, he was fit to be enthroned king of Judah and Israel.  This was what Saul acknowledged too.  “And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand.”  (1 Sm 24:20) His struggles and sufferings under Saul prepared him for heavier responsibilities in the future.

But his passion was also supported by the love of Jonathan.  It was his friendship with Jonathan that gave him strength to love Jonathan’s father.  “O Jonathan, in your death I am stricken, I am desolate for you, Jonathan my brother. Very dear to me you were, your love to more wonderful than the love of a woman.”  Because he loved Jonathan as much as Jonathan loved him, David could continue to love Saul and not take revenge on him.  Quite often, it is the support of our friends that gives us the impetus to continue to do the work we are doing in spite of opposition and trials.  It is the love of God and of our friends that can support us in our passion to do what is good for humanity.

What about us?  What drives us in our work and in what we do?  Are we driven by worldly ambition or worse still, the things of this world?  If that is the motivation for doing what we are doing, we will face disappointment the day when we arrive.  After spending so much time and energy, we will find all these things and achievements a vanity, as King Solomon discovered. (cf Eccl 2:9-11)

Today, we need to discover what it takes to be passionate in what we do.  We need to be driven by a higher purpose in life, beyond the things of this world that cannot satisfy us and cannot last. Jesus warns us, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  (Mt 6:19-21)  Let our hearts seek God and serve Him through the service of our fellowmen.  It is when we give ourselves in helping others, enlightening them, empowering them, so that in turn they can continue the good we are doing, that we find passion, meaning and purpose in life.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved

Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
  • Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
  • Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
  • It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.

Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online, nor will they be available via email request.